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Arthur Lenk is the current Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, Lesotho, Mauritius and Swaziland. Earlier this month, he wrote an opinion piece, South Africa and Israel: A mandate for more engagement, which was published in the Daily Maverick, a publication based in South Africa.

Both South Africa and Israel are touchstones for many, seen as places born out of great tragedy. I understand, and appreciate, the long and emotive connection between many in the ANC with the Palestinians. Israel is more than that one (albeit, very important) issue.

South African trade relations with Israel

Israel is a leading trading partner of South Africa, with bilateral trade in goods and services. For example, Israel has a business partnership with South Africa’s biggest vegetable producer of tomatoes. Most South African companies use Israeli telecommunications systems.

Israel has trade arrangements with diverse countries.

In recent years, Israel has reached agreements with India and China, establishing centres for joint agriculture R&D, education and economic development.

Israel supports a two-state solution, for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel protects rights of all its citizens regardless of race, sexual orientation or religious belief – Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Israel has made peace with two of its neighbors – Jordan and Egypt. We work with the Palestinian Authority on water, agriculture and capacity building programs – we signed a long-term contract to supply the Palestinians with natural gas.

Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2006, yet Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants regularly shoot rockets towards civilian areas.

Discussion about Israel is simplistic and often toxic

The South African political parties (ANC, DA, IFP, COPE and ACDP) stated that they support a two-state solution and oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in the Middle East.

South African representative government, the various political parties and much of the public, is not actually being heard at all.